Book Review – Mythos by Phillip Douglass

I read this book in paperback. This is an unsolicited review.


Author Phillip Douglass sums up his own book in the preface with these lines: “I seldom consider grammar, the structures or the format. I rarely consider the placement of a comma or an apostrophe. Nor do I fret much on past tense or filler words or whether my inability to fully grasp the proper way of organizing my expression can downgrade the message I am trying to convey.” In this, at least he gives us forewarning because boy is it accurate.

As an avid reader myself, I struggle with writers who refuse to care about their readers. Many times I reach the conclusion, if the writer doesn’t care if I, the reader, don’t understand what they’re saying, then I don’t care to read what they ARE trying to say. It’s a big fat “fuck you” from the writer. Still, I saw the book advertised on two of my favorite writers on Instagram and I purchased it based partially on their recommendations.

The book contains awkward formatting, both in the poetry and the strange margins. The prose pieces (and some poetry) contain poor punctuation and misspellings. It could use an editor because the back-coding was clearly not done which caused inconsistencies in the type, which is jarring while reading. In the preface, he keeps calling it his “book” in quotations and I can’t make sense of why he would do that. It’s awkward as he doesn’t explain why. Most of the poetry was, for me, so-so and underwhelming, especially with the length of most of the pieces. I typically prefer long-form poetry but many of these (being 2-7 pages) felt overdone or lagging. Many of the pieces are at times confusing or the thought pattern is difficult to follow where he’s going with it. Much of the rhyming poetry feels forced.

One such example of confusing and forced poetry uses alliteration and random rhyme splattered throughout in a collection of words that makes little to no sense: “…Lineage is the linger – Leaving longest string – When clipped – Leaves but a lonesome – Lonely meaningless thing…” This particular piece went on for two pages and I have no idea what he was trying to convey other than perhaps confusion.

But there WERE some redeeming pieces to hit and miss on. First, I really like the cover. It was a large factor in me ultimately purchasing it. Second, there were six poems that I thought were special, especially in their message.

‘Supernova’ is a short but powerful poem.

‘To Love and To Light’ is a six-page story poem that starts: “Was born at the time When the sun hung At the highest point In the sky My newborn body Greeted the world And its abundance of light I was a son of this sun…” and ends with “I only have love When I have you, My light”

‘Untitled’ (of which there are a few christened this) beginning on page 127 is an interesting three-page piece that uses color (or lack thereof) as metaphor. Some favorite lines were: “I have always seen The dark in the white And the light in the black” and “I am not colorless I am colors”

‘Red January’ – I love the title and is a story-poem about a 5-year-old boy who finds his dog shot to death in a ditch by his mom’s boyfriend

‘Snowflake’ has a great theme and progression going. Beginning with “I was first soft A snowflake So gentle in the beginning of my winter… Wanting to be a good boy” which progresses to “I don’t want to be a bad boy” to “want to be a good boy” on a bit to “I am a good man” to “And it is no wonder That your world is a lie When you can never face The truth of yourself…. I think I am a bad man” etc.

‘The Sound that Ever Remains In…’ is a seven-page story poem that goes along with ‘Red January’, even including that event, but also the misdeeds and abuse at the hands of the man. This was my favorite poem of the entire book. In the beginning, his abuser (who I suspect is an amalgam of his real dad and the boyfriend later) says to the five-year-old that he’s crying when he’s hurt “Because you are not a victim You are a predator” just after calling him a “soft boy”. The accusation of pain/being soft/and the statement become the theme even to his future days when death comes for him.

You may see the consistency in the works I thought stood out… yes, I found myself wishing Mr. Douglass would have wrote a book of short stories or flash fiction and ditched the poetry. He’s a great storyteller and those story-poems were his best pieces.

I give this 1.5/5. My grading came down to these key points (in case you disagree with any points): minus 1 for formatting/punctuation/spelling issues, minus 1 for repeated forced style/unnatural voice, minus 1 for confusing/uninspiring poetry, minus 1/2 for lack of care. Added 1/2 for cover, added 1 for the redeeming poems of which are far and few but do tell great stories.


Read more book reviews by following my Review Category.

be a good writer: read.
~tara caribou

**If this review was helpful or you’ve read it and want to add to the discussion, please let me know in the comments!


I will also, as a side-note, say, it may seem that I am harsh on many writers for their editing, formatting, grammar, punctuation, etc. I do so unapologetically. One, because this is a review, not a popularity contest. Two, because honest criticism should help us grow as artists.

The fact of the matter is, these things MATTER. A mathematician must use his tools and use them correctly to be an effective mathematician. A surgeon cannot simply say, “I know I can’t sew the wound closed but at least I could remove the appendix or whatever it’s called.” Same with writers. We can’t claim to be writers but refuse to use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. We can’t claim to be a photographer just because we know how to push the button on the camera (or phone). There’s an art to it.

So while I may appreciate the artist as a person and their words, I believe that it does us all a disservice to say lower quality editing is okay. Believe in yourself! Believe in the power of your words! Put the effort into being the very best you can be. Ask for help. Grow and learn.

A Day at the Beach Nature Photography

It’s been a bit warm for me the last few days, nearly reaching 60*F (16c). I took my socks and shoes off and headed for the beach to do some target practice with my pistol and then some walking in tidepools and taking a few shots with my camera instead. I hope you guys enjoy.

Huge slabs of coal on this section of the beach.
Barnacles, limpets, neptunea, clay, cool rocks, and seaweed abound.
Some tidepools look like a whole different world.
A larger pool cascades over the edge of the coal and makes its way into the ocean while mussels cling to the coal’s surface.
Itty-bitty baby neptunea leave trails in the wet sand.
Barnacles, barnacles, barnacles.
Sooo many neptunea. These about the size of a large kumquat or strawberry.
Clay covered coal. Stretching up to the sand/clay on the beach, and the cliffs beyond.
The coal several feet thick, at some point cracked and the movement of the tides has worn it apart and allowed it to shift.
Neptunea, limpets, seaweed, and a broken clam shell, all clinging to the side of the coal slab.
I found it interesting there were baby barnacles lined in a row along the edges of the mussels’ shells. Watching each of the creatures open and closing with the heat of the sun and the moisture evaporating was quite interesting for me to observe.

tara caribou | ©2021

All photos are mine. Unedited and raw.

Book Review – Smorgasbord by Francis Joseph LaManna

Smorgasbord by Francis Joseph LaManna


I read this in paperback. This is an unsolicited review.

Smorgasbord is an apt title, I’ll start with that. The book reads like a mishmash collection of writing that somehow makes sense in the end. Author Frank LaManna delves into creative writing (generally dark themes), some random thoughts, philosophy, numerology, synchronicities, and autobiography relating to the current state of the world. From the back: “…edgy and bold, some portions … very opinionated… Take whatever you have in your head about what a traditional book is supposed to be like and forget it.” That is the perfect explanation right there.

My favorite chapter had to be “LaManna” (written in Greek). Here the author, whose enthusiasm shines through easily, delves into numerology regarding generations, years, history, and the like. It was fascinating food for thought. Like the rest of his writing, he never forces his ideas in your face, rather makes interesting notes pointing the the reader in one direction or another and says: now how about that? One can tell he’s a teacher at heart because that is how he writes. Not the teachers of today who tend to preach without room for individual thought, but instead the teacher (of philosophy) from previous days when critical thought was the name. While I didn’t always come to the same conclusions he did, I appreciated the way he meanders through thoughts and ideas, sparking conversation.

What I liked: I love the cover and the length of the book, at just over 130 pages. I also appreciate LaManna’s voice. It’s easy and relatable, not pretentious or overbearing.

What I didn’t: initially the style seemed all over the place and disjointed. That said, by the time I was a quarter of the way through, I recognized it was just his style and I settled in for an entertaining and thought-provoking read. I did not care for the illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. For me, they did not help the book or accentuate it. In my opinion, they lowered the value of the words.

Final thoughts: I have mixed feelings about the book. It’s an easy read, per the author’s voice and style, though some of the topics may be off-putting. I personally am okay with that because I like deep conversations and discussions that might make one uncomfortable, in the way that they may make you question your beliefs or preconceived (ie: preprogrammed) ideas about the world. That said, it narrows the field for those who will appreciate what he’s conveying. It’s a mixed bag but one I happily took a gamble on. I wasn’t disappointed. With 4/5 stars, I recommend the book to those who appreciate philosophical autobiographical topics, and in this case, especially related to living circumstances and the current state of the world.


Read more book reviews by following my Review Category.

be a good writer: read.
~tara caribou

**If this review was helpful or you’ve read it and want to add to the discussion, please let me know in the comments!


I will also, as a side-note, say, it may seem that I am harsh on many writers for their editing, formatting, grammar, punctuation, etc. I do so unapologetically. One, because this is a review, not a popularity contest. Two, because honest criticism should help us grow as artists.

The fact of the matter is, these things MATTER. A mathematician must use his tools and use them correctly to be an effective mathematician. A surgeon cannot simply say, “I know I can’t sew the wound closed but at least I could remove the appendix or whatever it’s called.” Same with writers. We can’t claim to be writers but refuse to use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. We can’t claim to be a photographer just because we know how to push the button on the camera (or phone). There’s an art to it.

So while I may appreciate the artist as a person and their words, I believe that it does us all a disservice to say lower quality editing is okay. Believe in yourself! Believe in the power of your words! Put the effort into being the very best you can be. Ask for help. Grow and learn.

Book Release – Tangled Together by emje mccarty

Raw Earth Ink is proud to present emje mccarty’s Tangled Together, a collection of short stories. Emje mixes her brand of dark humor, dystopian science fiction, parenting mishaps, and relationship faux pas.

You can find her book on lulu, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, or signed copies directly from emje. I know she still has a few copies of her first book, Confusion Perfume and Other Neurotic Comics available as well.

Check out more books here.

Afterthoughts

beneath the jagged waves
my face silently slips
moonlight accents edge peaks and valleys
and I’m no longer fighting it

releasing my final breath
I’m floating softly in this cold new world
sinking down
into the vast depths

I look above to see the gentle beams
reflections of some far off light
sifting through the murky wastes
motes of debris
drifting and slowly swirling

I am one speck of many
precious becoming no longer seen
here amongst the others

somehow I’m quietly calm and
each thought slows
s l o w s
s . l . o . w . s

numbing peace fills every part of me
I am forgetting all that passed before
and who I was
I simply am

you’ll never see these tears again for
I am of the sea and
she belongs in me
and I in her

what is one drop among many?
I am sinking
I am swirling
I am falling
I am alone
and I will never be alone again

healing came from within


tara caribou | ©2019-2021 revised

Book Review – A Distilled Spirit by Joseph Pinto

I read this book on my kindle. This is an unsolicited review.


A Distilled Spirit is the debut poetry collection from author Joseph Pinto, the bar fly poet. I loved his dedication: “for you: the wayward, the broken, the pained, the lost, the grieving, the unloved, the lonely, the blackened, the muted, the different, the observant, the rare.” A fitting beginning to observation and rumination he made while sitting in bars, drinking the evenings away. The book is broken up into sections, beginning in the early evening at 7pm and making its way to last call. Pinto sums up humanity, in particular the lost, dark, and sad sides of it, as if watching from the corner, patrons coming and going, sipping scotch and jotting notes or sketches throughout the evening.

There were times I could hear the rise and fall of voices, laughter, muted conversation, bottles clinking, money slapped on the bar, music waxing and waning and a never empty glass. As such, I did not read this in one sitting. Sometimes I read a few pieces, or a whole section, but I felt the need to sober up here and there. The pain, the loneliness, the longing, the spite, the dread, he covers it all. I loved it. I grimaced. I held my heart.

I liked the simple cover and the layout worked great for me. Nice length with just over 160 poems included, not too short or too long for my tastes. I wished, at times, for a break in the darkness, but felt it would have been out of place, had it been included. When I needed a break I took one and came back refreshed and thirsty for more. 4.75/5

Some of my favorite pieces were:
the tree – “she stood alone bowed an ancient tree in the forest awaiting a fall no one would ever hear”
the sweater – the entire piece made me laugh, observing some guy with an ugly sweater and even worse pick-up lines
hand poised on knob – always on the edge of making that one big life changing decision
the room you live in – “your skin as translucent as the lies you tell yourself”
winter’s sunset – “the wind carrying a name turned to frost on my lips”
of a new age – “it bore into me that horrible flaking of rust the anguished drumming of the mechanism she was”
atomic number 26 – “you’ll always view me that way nothing more than your atomic number 26 while the greater part of me flakes bit by bit over time”
burn to your core – “i am charred; i am lifeless without ever having died”

Recommended to those who will appreciate modern free verse poetry about the loneliness of man and the late night reflections.

Additional Note: Mr. Pinto’s third poetry collection, From My Front Steps, is due to release June 5th.


Read more book reviews by following my Review Category.

be a good writer: read.
~tara caribou

**If this review was helpful or you’ve read it and want to add to the discussion, please let me know in the comments!


I will also, as a side-note, say, it may seem that I am harsh on many writers for their editing, formatting, grammar, punctuation, etc. I do so unapologetically. One, because this is a review, not a popularity contest. Two, because honest criticism should help us grow as artists.

The fact of the matter is, these things MATTER. A mathematician must use his tools and use them correctly to be an effective mathematician. A surgeon cannot simply say, “I know I can’t sew the wound closed but at least I could remove the appendix or whatever it’s called.” Same with writers. We can’t claim to be writers but refuse to use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. We can’t claim to be a photographer just because we know how to push the button on the camera (or phone). There’s an art to it.

So while I may appreciate the artist as a person and their words, I believe that it does us all a disservice to say lower quality editing is okay. Believe in yourself! Believe in the power of your words! Put the effort into being the very best you can be. Ask for help. Grow and learn.

Erosion

I hold memories of you
like a wave-worn rock
nestled in my pocket

reaching in, my fingers
float along your soft edges
/the gentle curves of who you were
/who I remember you to be
/who we once were

I feel your weight
a whispering touch, I cradle that ache again
/the fervent ache to have you
/reach back
/to me

but I’m just one more wave, aren’t I?
swirling and foaming and churning
trying so hard to capture you

vainly, I cast my net to surround you but
you
you move right past my fingertips

again and again I try
slipping, frothing, hoping
/just
/this
/once
I could be the one to carry you

no, no, instead I’m the one who
brushes off grains of you
smoothes, polishes
cherishes, every speck

mixing bits of you, treasured
here, inside my heart


tara caribou | ©2019-2021 revised

Book Review – These Days Drip From Me by River Dixon

River Dixon reigns in the writing arena. Hands down one of my favorite authors from the very first piece I ever read, this latest collection of poetry from him is no slouch. River shares twenty-seven of his dark, rich, deep-rooted poems. In fact, I had only two complaints… first, I had to read it in e-book as it is offered electronically exclusively and I prefer paper. Second. It’s too damn short. I love this author way too much to be teased with such a short collection… although, if I’m honest with myself, I suppose I’d rather read a chapbook than no book. So this is a half-gripe.

Every piece within was outstanding, as I expect from this author. A few of my favorites were “All My Time” which starts out with the lines ‘Spend all my time Searching for new ways To say the same old thing’ and ending with the hollow hope of one day having something of value to show for all these days of creating and re-creating. I personally identify with the vast majority of his poetry and this one contains the some of the same thoughts that worry me for my own art. “Scraps” paints a haunting reminder when we fail ourselves and others, even unintentionally, and the after-images left behind as a result. In “The Way it Was” I appreciated the extreme imagery of broken glass shredding one’s skin as reality crashes in on the fantasy world we wrap ourselves in while attempting to please those who watch. “There Was a Place” holds deep longing in memories of something special no longer held. Poignant and relatable. “Till Then” was my favorite piece in the book. Starts where it should: at the beginning, being molded with devilish care, cutting off parts and pieces of the innocent to fit a certain pre-conceived mold. And moving forward through time, realizing that they don’t need to continue cutting on you and shaping you because you are doing it to yourself now. It’s diabolical and unfortunately happens far too often. I speak from real experience here… breaking away from that sort of torture, that mind-circumcision, is very hard to do, and I fear impossible in many cases (in the mind’s eye).

Stellar collection and of course I’ll be slobbering for more morsels when they’re cast out for us. I’m giving this 4.75/5 because, damn it, I want a paperback (and I sort of recanted on the length). Highly recommended to those who appreciate dark modern free verse with the penchant to read the stories in between the lines.

Read more from River Dixon on his website thestoriesinbetween.com


tara caribou | ©2021

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